Animal control officers in Florida have rescued six dozen cats from the home of an alleged animal hoarder.
Authorities said the 72 cats were discovered Tuesday following an anonymous tip that led officers to a Fort Myers Shores home. What they say they found there was heartbreaking and horrifying: Conditions fit for neither felines nor people, a house so filthy that officers had to wear hazmat suits during the seven-hour rescue operation.
"The house is absolutely jam-packed with cats stacked on cats, in cages, and a house full of feces, urine," Lt. Tony Backhurst with Lee County Domestic Animal Services told WFTX. "It's very difficult to breathe, you can't stay in the house for very long."
According to the station, it is the sixth case of animal hoarding investigated by local authorities in a month.
Neighbors could not believe how many cats were found in the house.
"They just keep bringing animals out and the supervisor told me that it was grim," Danielle Null, who lives nearby, told NBC 2 news.
But what's truly sad about the case is that the owner of the home, Sandra Berkshire, apparently thought she was doing a good deed.
"She's loving, caring. And she talks about how she's saved a few and gives them away, finds loving homes," neighbor Adam Rudd told WFTX. "I'm glad that she's able to get some help for the cats, but I'm sure she's a little upset."
The case is still being investigated, and no charges were filed as of Tuesday, according to the Pine Island Eagle.
The cats were taken to Lee County Domestic Animal Services. Agency spokeswoman Ria Brown told NBC2 that staff are scrambling to care for the cats and find them foster homes, but the shelter is virtually full and its resources are stretched to their limits.
"There's not much space left for another cat right now," Brown said.